Op Sahel Cascade Jan - Feb 1973
Khartoum / Juba (Sudan) FLt Lt Gordon Townsend, FS Pete Underwood, Sgt Ross McKerron, Cpl Geordie Sanderson, SAC's Dave Moss and Hoppy Porter plus 4. Transport relief supplies for the World Health Organisation and other urgent Sudanese Government equipment
Dave Moss wrote:
"When I first joined The Squadron I was a member of Lima Team under the control of Plt Off later Fg Off Pete Simpson and later by Flt Lt Gus Hatter.
I was also involved in the operation moving relief supplies from Khartoum to Juba during January / February 1973.(along with quite a lot of other tasks that I have read reports of, but not found my name mentioned.)
Please find herewith a report on the task.
We deployed ex Lyneham via Akrotiri on a Herc loaded with an assortment of "goodies" which included some very large tyres, which hopefully would fit some sort of vehicle out there. (if they did, we never saw the vehicles whilst we were there.) We landed on a dirt strip amongst clouds of dust to be met by the sight of a crowd of local prisoners who it transpired were the freight handling party for the load.
Thank goodness they were there as those tyres weighed a lot and hurt if they landed on a foot protected only by a pair of bondu boots.
It was taking some time to "organise" our assistants until I realised that they were speaking in an Arabic dialect, and having spent a tour in Aden, my scraps of pidgin lingo came in very useful.
All these types of group have a leader who carries some form of "badge of office", and this was no exception, the tallest and widest and obviously best fed of the group was also the only one with a pair of shoes. These shoes were obviously his badge, as they were clearly about five sizes to small for him so he was wearing them with the laces tied together as a necklace Once we had established each others names, it was amazing how quickly things got sorted out.
It only took a small demonstration of what was required and our friend Hammed made short work of getting things moving. It is amazing how just a few words in a common language can make things so much easier. Once the Herc was offloaded, we took of again and flew several hours to Khartoum to spend the night in an hotel.
The hotel was in down town Khartoum and we had the "privilege", if we wanted, to use the swimming pool of another hotel across the street.
Our evening meal was found to be "a little different" by some members of the team, but, by the time we had consumed a couple of beers we were making jokes about seeing what might be breakfast running across the dining room floor.
First job next morning was to re load the Herc with as much food stuff as possible from the great mountain supplies from Red Crescent, Red Cross and other relief organisations. Once again we had a group of local labourers (not prisoners this time) to assist us.We tried to speed things up a bit as it was hoped to do two trips a day down to Juba, but these chaps were not as motivated by "need" as much as those down at Juba, so it was annoying to see them taking one sack of flour between two of them across to the Herc and up the ramp where two of our team were stacking and netting it down.
A couple of us got so tired of trying to chase them up that we decided to show them how we expected it to be done. We got them to lift two sacks of flour across our shoulders and then ran with them onto the Herc. After a couple of demo runs I used my bit of Arabic again to suggest that they try doing the same, even if it was only with one sack each. It worked, I don't think they liked being shamed by how hard we were prepared to work to help their countrymen.
We eventually managed to get one load to Juba, offload and return and reload ready for the next morning. As the task progressed, we were asked to include amongst the loads, items of building and plumbing goods, which were to be used during the construction of a new hotel that was being built as accommodation for HRH the Princess Anne, who was due to visit the area, and would be meeting there with the Emperor Haile Selassie.
Although we were not impressed with the using of payload space for these goods at the expense of relief supplies, we were not in any position to argue, so some famine relief was sacrificed to build a hotel, which I believe never got used after all.
We reduced the mountain of supplies considerably during our days in Sudan, and made I think quite an impression on the people we were there trying to help.I just hope that our efforts made it possible for those starving people to have a decent amount of food even if only for a short while.
Follow up comment to the above:
About two years ago, my mother in law took in as a lodger, a Sudanese professor, who was working at the Bristol University agricultural department genetics department, researching how to grow wheat in extreme conditions. Working backwards by his age, he would have been two or three years old at the time of our task.
Who knows, perhaps we really did do some good out there."